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Editors play a key role in the publishing pipeline. But as more and more people self-publish and engage editors outside of mainstream publishers, there’s a particular part of the industry that editors need to be aware of: legal deposit.

In simple terms, legal deposit is the requirement for publications to be deposited with a library for preservation.

IPEd spoke with the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa and the National Library Australia to learn more about what legal deposit is. Here’s why editors need to be aware of legal deposit requirements and how editors can support their clients to navigate legal deposit.

Key points:

  • Legal deposit helps to preserve published material.
  • Legal deposit covers more than just traditionally published books.
  • As the publishing model becomes more decentralised, editors play a key role in ensuring legal deposit requirements are met.
  • The National Library of New Zealand and the National Library of Australia have extensive resources on legal deposit.


What is legal deposit?

In Aotearoa New Zealand, legal deposit is a requirement that publishers deposit copies of their publications to the National Library of New Zealand, within 20 days of publication. For a digital publication, a publisher must deposit within 20 days of the Library requesting assistance to obtain a copy.

Legal deposit ensures a comprehensive collection of published material relating to New Zealand and its people is preserved for the community and future generations.

More information about legal deposit in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In Australia, legal deposit allows national, state and territory libraries to collect, preserve and make accessible Australia’s published heritage.

Legal deposit laws require copies of each publication that has been made available to the public for free or for sale in Australia to be given to the National Library and to the state or territory library in which they were published. Eligible publications are catalogued (to ensure discoverability), preserved and kept accessible for the future.

Legal deposit collections form a diverse and inclusive picture of the nation and capture what we are thinking, imagining and writing about over time. Legal deposit collecting is the core legislative function of the National Library of Australia.

More information about legal deposit in Australia.

What kind of materials fall under the requirements of legal deposit?

Different libraries will collect different materials, but as a general rule, anything that is published either in print or electronic form will be covered by legal deposit.

This includes books, newspapers, magazines and electronic documents including websites.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, to fall under the requirement, material needs to be available to the public, be published by an Aotearoa New Zealand person or organisation, and have copyright. There are requirement notices for books, periodicals, electronic documents and vinyl sound recordings. These notices allow print publications, audio-visual and born-digital publications to fall under the requirement for legal deposit.

The legislation allows a publication to be in scope for Aotearoa New Zealand legal deposit even when the person or organisation is paying someone to print publications for them, or if they are using a print-on-demand or e-book, music, or film distribution platform. This applies even when the company being used is overseas.

In Australia, legal deposit laws cover publications in print and electronic format, including books, newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, graphic novels, comics, reports, government publications and websites available to the public. Legal deposit applies to all Australian publications at the National Library of Australia, and separately at the relevant state or territory library.

Independently published works by Australian authors using international publishing platforms are considered to have been published in Australia so they are covered too.

Some types of publications are not required or are only selectively collected. These include blank forms and labels; calendars and diaries; activity-based materials and games that do not have significant text; training and procedure manuals; minutes of meetings; teaching and course notes, course workbooks and theses; press releases and trade advertising.

Why is legal deposit something that editors need to be aware of?

There are several reasons editors should be aware of legal deposit requirements.

As a spokesperson from the National Library of Australia explained, as publishing “becomes decentralised, many people who publish are not traditional publishers and, as such, are not aware of legal deposit.

“Traditional publishers are responsible for depositing their publications, but in hybrid or self-publishing arrangements the responsibility falls to the author or creator. It is challenging for the National Library to have visibility of each publication that is produced in Australia and communicate with creators one by one.”

This is where editors and their role in the publication pipeline become incredibly important.

Many writers will engage with editors to improve their publication and we see this as a key moment in which information about legal deposit can be shared,” the National Library of Australia spokesperson explained.

Similarly, in Aotearoa New Zealand, legal deposit is the responsibility of the publisher, the person or organisation who is paying for the work to be produced. In the case of self-publishing authors, they supply publications in their role as publisher, not author. Editors also need to know that deposit should occur once the work has been published – that is, when the publisher has started distributing copies to the public.

But for editors, it’s not just about ensuring the legal requirements of legal deposit are satisfied. Being knowledgeable about legal deposit adds another string to your bow.

A spokesperson from the National Library of New Zealand explained, “Legal deposit is something that may not be on an author’s radar when they begin their publishing journey. If they work with an editor, they could expect the editor to have a broad knowledge of the publishing industry and processes.

“Having knowledge, or knowing where best to direct their clients, deepens the editor and client relationship, and positions the editor as a trusted expert.”

In Australia, editors of books should also be aware of the Pre-publication Data Service (PDS), a free opt-in service available before publication. If used, the PDS entitles publishers to include a cataloguing statement on their title page. The PDS helps publishers by making information about their upcoming publication available to libraries and library suppliers around the country, before publication, through Libraries Australia and Trove. 

How can editors support their clients to meet their legal deposit obligations?

1) Spend some time exploring the resources from different legal deposit jurisdictions so you’re across the requirements.

2) Share these resources with your clients so they understand their obligations under legal deposit and the value in depositing.

3) If you have any questions about legal deposit, ask the legal deposit library where your client is located.


Thanks to the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa and the National Library Australia for sharing information and resources about legal deposit.